Raymond Hess, a senior Earth and planetary sciences major at Oakes College, likes using not only his mind but also his hands to solve problems.
This is why when he’s not in the classroom, Hess will sometimes find himself chest deep in water in a flooded farm basin or hunched over a sediment analyzer in the hydrogeology lab of UC Santa Cruz Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor Andy Fisher, part of an effort to find tools to help recharge California’s threatened aquifers as water crises loom.
“It’s valuable work,” said the junior college transfer student who has won several scholarships and been helped on his way by two programs on campus. “It’s contributing to a current issue affecting the short-term and long-term future of water in California.”
Speaking by phone from the Earth and Marine Sciences building on campus, Hess described wading into infiltration ponds to take samples and working in the lab doing grain-size analysis of soil from sites near the Cosumnes River and in the Pajaro Valley. The data he is collecting and analyzing will help researchers determine the infiltration potential of varying soil types and estimate how much surface water will go into underground aquifers to recharge them.
“The goal is to increase vertical infiltration into the aquifer rather than water traveling laterally and stagnating,” Hess said.
Hess said he has found community at UC Santa Cruz not only in his department but also through two programs: Services for Transfer and Re-entry Students (STARS) and Workshops for Engineering and Science Transfers (WEST).
STARS, he said, “did a great job of making me aware of everything that was available on campus as far as where things were and which programs offered specific services.”
Likewise, the intense two-and-a-half-day WEST program helped jump-start his UC Santa Cruz career by bringing together students of different educational backgrounds and introducing them to the pace of study and to research opportunities while also building connections and confidence.
“It was invaluable help,” Hess said.
Meanwhile, Hess’s passion for his work led to his being awarded the Silvia Miller Scholarship for re-entry students and also the prestigious Kathryn D. Sullivan scholarship designed to encourage undergraduate research—$10,000 in all—which allowed him to continue his academic and research efforts.
“Andy [Fisher] said it this way,” Hess said. “Everyone has their time when they are going to accomplish certain things they want to do, and I think now is the time for me.”